Biological Cybernetics

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 101–112 | Cite as

Optomotor control of wing beat and body posture in drosophila

  • Karl Georg Götz
  • Bärbel Hengstenberg
  • Roland Biesinger


Continuous movement of striped patterns was presented on either side of a tethered fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster, in order to simulate the displacement of stationary landmarks within the visual field of the freely moving fly. The horizontal components of the stimulus elicit, predominantly, yaw-torque responses during flight, or turning responses on the ground, which counteract involuntary deviations from a streight course in the corresponding mode of locomotion. The vertical components elicit, predominantly, covariant responses of lift and thrust which enable the fly to maintain a given level of flight. Monocular stimulation is sufficient to produce antagonistic responses, if the direction of the stimulus is reversed. The following constituents of the responses were derived mainly from properties of wing beat and body posture on photographs of fixed flight under visual stimulation. Wing stroke modulation (W. S. M.): The difference, and the sum, of the stroke amplitudes on either side are independently controlled by horizontal and vertical movement components, respectively. The maximum range of modulation per wing (12.3°) is equivalent to a 63% change in thrust on the corresponding side. Leg stroke modulation (L.S.M.): In the walking fly each pair of legs is under control of visual stimulation. The details of leg articulation are still unknown. Abdominal deflection (A.D.): An actively induced posture effect. Facilitates steering during free flight at increased air speed. Hind leg deflection (H.L.D.): Same as before. On most of the photographs the hind legs were deflected simultaneously and in the same direction as the abdomen. Hitch inhibition (H.I.): The term “hitch” denotes a transient reduction of stroke amplitude which seems to occur spontaneously and independently on either side of the fly. The hitch angle (12.2±3.8° S.D.) is most probably invariant to visual stimulation. Hitches are comparatively frequent in the absence of pattern movement. Their inhibition under visual stimulation is equivalent to an increase of the average thrust of the corresponding wing. The different constituents contribute to the optomotor responses according to the following tentative scheme (Fig. 7). The torque response is essentially due to the effects of W.S.M., A.D., H.L.D. and H.I., and the turning response to L.S.M. and possibly H.L.D., if the landmarks drift from anterior to posterior. So far, H.I. seems to be the only source of the torque response, and L.S.M. the only source of the turning response, if the landmarks drift in the opposite direction. The lift/thrust response results essentially from the effects of W.S.M. and H.I., no matter whether the landmarks drift from inferior to superior or in the opposite direction. The results obtained so far suggest that the optomotor control of course and altitude in Drosophila requires at least eight independent input channels or equivalent means for the separation of the descending signals from the visual centres. Further extension and refinement of the “wiring scheme” is required in order to improve the identification of the sensory inputs of the motor system and the classification of optomotor defective mutants.


Visual Stimulation Wing Beat Torque Response Turning Response Optomotor Response 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karl Georg Götz
    • 1
  • Bärbel Hengstenberg
    • 1
  • Roland Biesinger
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institut für biologische KybernetikTübingenFRG

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